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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Julia

Top 10 Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do

Cartagena, Colombia captured my attention 10+ years ago when I first moved to Atlanta, GA. When I worked in Oil & Gas as a Chief Audit Executive, I saw pictures of Cartagena from the Sales Vice President who visited Cartagena for a sales conference. I immediately knew and said I would visit.

In 2022, my visit to Cartagena, Colombia is a reality.

I am not surprised that Cartagena is one of the most visited cities in the Americas for tourists, digital nomads, and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Cartagena, Colombia Top Things to Do
Cartagena, Colombia Top 10 Things to Do

Cartagena located in Colombia's Caribbean coast is known for its Walled City, Getsemani picturesque neighborhood, and colorful history dating back to 4,000 BC.

Cartagena is one of those cities where you may experience with all your senses within small distances. As you walk the streets of the Old City, you will catch glimpses of the culture of Palenqueras - Afro-Colombian women in bright dresses selling fruit in Cartagena’s plazas.

No matter whether you wander through the Walled City or Getsemani, it is an absolute photographer's and Instagrammer's dream with the vibrant colors and colonial architecture. As you wander past the Walled City, you will see the juxtaposition between the old and new.

Don't forget to add in a beach day or two with nearby Rosario Islands (or maybe even stay at a private island!)

Taking in sunsets from the rooftops, castles, and nearby beaches with breathtaking views is a must in Cartagena.

Sophia Hotel Cartagena Photo Credit Maria with Cartagena Photo Walk
Sophia Hotel Cartagena Photo Credit Maria with Cartagena Photo Walk

Whether you will spend one day in Cartagena, or a week like I did, you will love it.

It's not easy to narrow down Cartagena, Colombia to a Top 10 Things to Do, but here goes!

My Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do includes:

  • Visiting Walled City

  • Strolling through Getsemani

  • Marveling at the beautiful churches

  • Soaking in the sunset on rooftops

  • Taking a day trip to Rosario Islands

  • Learning about history at Museo Naval

  • Walking on the grounds of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

  • Doing a photoshoot walk in the Old City

  • Walking across the bridge and along the water to Manga or Bocagrande

  • Enjoying foodie favorites like fresh juices, coconut treats, seafood, and cafes

Getsemani Linda Maria Cafe

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia will capture your spirit, soul, mind and body with its history, culture, beauty, and experiences.

Cartagena, Colombia Highlights

  • Lies in the Northern Caribbean part of Colombia

  • Famous for its Old City, Getsemani, and Rosario Islands

  • Highly Walkable city between Old City and Getsemani - 1-3km

  • Archaeologists believe humans lived in the region around 4,000 BC - Puerto Hormiga culture

  • City of Cartagena de Indias, named after the Spanish city Cartagena, founded on June 1, 1533

  • Discovery of riches in Sinu tribe tombs helped the city flourish after a fire in 1552

  • 16th Century - Wall and Fortress is built for Cartagena's protection

  • 17th Century - King of Spain ordered Cartagena to become a slave trade center

  • UNESCO-recognized village San Basilio Palenqueras are the first freed slaves in the Americas.

  • Cartagena is in the middle of the British and Spanish War leading to be highly protected

  • In 1811, Cartagena is the first city to declare independence twice - ultimately succeeding.

  • Boasts triple tourism rates from 1 million foreign visitors per year in 2006 to 2 million in 2019

Umbrella Street in Getsemani

All shots are my own on Canon EOSM100, Sony A330, and/or my iPhone 13 or via Airbnb.

Travel to Cartagena, Colombia

Travel to Cartagena is easy whether you are traveling internationally or from within Colombia, or South America. Rafael Nunez International Airport offers flights with Delta, American, Copa. Spirit, Jet Blue, VivaAir, Wingo, and more.

I flew from Medellin on Viva for $50 USD. Since my flight was within Colombia, all I needed to show was my Passport and Vaccination Card. For international flights to Colombia and from Colombia, a Mig Form Registration Online is required for COVID currently.

Where I Stayed in Cartagena, Colombia

The first Airbnb i booked was in Manga, about 1-2 km walking from the Walled City. When I booked at La Vie en Rose, I thought I would stay in Cartagena for 5 days. It is easy to walk from Manga across the bridge right to Getsemani, and a little further to the Walled City.

However, both because of all the city has to offer and with flight logistics to fly to Bocos del Toros for a press trip in Panama and brand project, plans changed. By the time I realized with the flights to Panama, the room at La Vie en Rose was already booked. So, I moved to the Old City for my last two nights.

Airbnb in Cartagena La Vie en Rose

I found an Airbnb in Cartagena in the Walled City that is an adorable two-story loft right in the center of the city in the back of Cafe de la Manana with breakfast included* for the two additional nights.

I loved being in the center of the Wall City and footsteps from almost everything. Whether I wanted to visit museums, churches, or wander the colonial streets, it is all minutes from Cafe de la Manana.

Airbnb in Cartagena in Walled City

Top 10 Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do

Cartagena offers much more than what I share in my Top 10 Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do. Cartagena is my favorite out of the three cities I visited in Colombia. Of course, I did enjoy travel to Bogota and experiencing Medellin, the city of eternal spring.

At the same time, Cartagena captures you like very few cities I have experienced in the world.

I spent a week in Cartagena, and could have easily stayed longer.

Whether you spend a day, a week, or months in Cartagena, always make any travels your own!

In putting together the Top 10 Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do, I considered how I would experience travels knowing what I know now to make it easier and more enjoyable for you.

Sunset in Cartagena, Colombia

My Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do includes:

  • Walking Walled City for hours

  • Strolling through Getsemani

  • Marveling at the beautiful churches

  • Soaking in the sunset on rooftops

  • Taking a day trip to Rosario Islands

  • Learning about history at Museo Naval

  • Walking on the grounds of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

  • Doing a photoshoot walk in the Old City

  • Walking across the bridge and along the water to Manga or Bocagrande

  • Enjoying foodie favorites like fresh juices, coconut treats, seafood, and cafes


1 Walking Walled City in Cartagena

The colonial architecture of the historical center in Cartagena boasts 11 km of defensive walls. The construction of the walls began in 1586 to protect the city from constant pirate attacks. No matter which way you turn as you walk the Walled City, you will walk in wonder.

I love how close everything is within Cartagena. You will find you may visit all the sites below within less than 2-3 hours. It is easy to combine multiple places in the Top 10 Things to Do in a half or full day.

On the day I checked into my second Airbnb, I visited all the places below in about 2 hours at a very leisure pace.

Key landmarks you want to visit in the Walled City include:

  • Clock Tower (city gate entrance to historical center)

  • Sweet Street across courtyard from Clock Tower

  • Plaza Santo Domingo (Church, Botero Statue, Shops)

  • Plaza de las Coches (has city founder Pedro de Heredia statue, once used as slave market)

  • Plaza Aduanas (oldest square in Old Town, statue of Christoper Colombus, used for parades)

  • Museo Naval (beautiful museum near the Wall on history, culture, and Colombian navy)

  • Climb the Wall to feel and capture history, and the present

  • Roam the streets of the Walled City

Plaza de los Coches by Clock Tower

I loved roaming the streets of Walled City

Walking Old City for hours is a MUST in Cartagena.


2 Getsemani Stroll in Cartagena

You didn't think walking is over yet in Cartagena, did you? Depending on how long you are in Cartagena, it is easy to combine both Getsemani and Walled City in a day. They are within less than 2km of each other. I definitely recommend you walk through Getsemani at least twice too.

It is filled with incredible colorful street art, artisans, and the famous Umbrella Street.

A paradise for tourists, photographers, and Instagrammer's all alike.

That's not all that Getsemani is or was.

It boasts a colorful history as vivid as its streets.

For Christians, you will immediately recognize the name like I did, of the garden of Gethsamane where Jesus prayed before going to the cross.

Getsemani's neighborhood in the walled city of Cartagena was built initially to prevent invaders. After the Spanish arrived in 1533, it became a blue-color center hub. At the time, slaves worked on the walls and fortress, built furniture, worked as prostitutes, and worked in the homes of the white residents.

While as tourists, we may marvel at the beauty of Cartagena and the views of its wall, residents like Davinson Gaviria recall historical accounts of slaves dying building the walls.

In 1811, the city declared independence with people of all races and nationalities working together. Slavery was not officially abolished until 1851.

On my first day in Cartagena, I walked through Getsemani neighborhood to places like:

  • Umbrella Street

  • Linda Maria

  • Plaza Trinidad

I visited Getsemani strolling the streets and went co-working at Beiyu Slow Food and Cafe Mural for incredible coffee during another day on. my travels.


3 Churches in Cartagena

There are over 15 churches in to visit in Cartagena. I chose to visit two during my travels to Cartagena, Columbia.

San Pedro Claver

San Pedro Claver Church in the Plaza de San Pedro Claver adjacent to the Naval Museum. The church was built between 1580 to 1654 in Spanish Colonial style except for the dome. It is known originally as San Juan de Dios.

At the churches altar, like the remains of Saint Peter Claver who died in 1654 in Cartagena, who devoted his life to evangelizing and redeeming the black slaves of New Granada.

In front of the church, you will often find the Palenqueras (women dressed in Cartagena traditional clothing with fruit bowls), who were the first group of freed slaves.

I visited several times during my walks through the Walled City, and went to a Sunday service.

Church in Cartagena San Pedro Claver

Santa Catalina

The uplifting tower you see opposite of San Pedro Claver is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was built in 1575, and destroyed by English pirate, Francis Drake with canons unleashed on the city in 1586,

The cathedral was rebuilt and completed in 1612. In the early 20th century, the first archbishop of Cartagena embellished the facade with stucco and the large dome on the tower. In the photo below, you may see at the end of the street.

I visited on the Sunday I left as well.

Photo Credit mine of Cartagena Street and Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina Church PC: Wikipedia

Cartagena, Colombia with Palenqueras

In front of Santa Catalina with the Palenqueras.


4 Sunset Views on Rooftops

An absolute must in Cartagena is enjoying sunset on rooftops in the beautiful colonial city.

One of the travel bloggers who has inspired me for years and I met at Travel Blogger Exchange Conference is Alyssa @mylifeasatravelmovie. One of her blogs on Cartagena inspired me to visit Movich Hotel Rooftop with one of the most incredible backdrop I have ever seen.

Everyone is very friendly at Movich. I connected with Isabel and my waiter was amazing. They will help you with photos, and there is no minimum spend either. I had my favorite lemonade with coconut and Ceviche.

Sunset in Cartagena on Movich Rooftop

Sunset Rooftop

During my Cartagena Photo Walk with Maria Fernandez via Airbnb Experience we visited the Sophia Hotel in the Walled City. It is near Movich Hotel, and you may find both easily via GPS and/or ask locals.

Sophia Hotel Rooftop


5 Rosario Islands Day Trip

Travel to Cartagena, Colombia is not complete without a day trip to Rosario Islands. As a colonial oasis, Cartagena is incredible. It is near one of Colombia's most beautiful islands - Rosario Islands. Rosario Islands are a collection of 27 incredible islands off Colombia's Caribbean coast. The islands are about 45 minutes and 60 miles away from the coast of Cartagena.

They are one of 46 Natural National Parks of Colombia. I ended up deciding to go on an Airbnb Experience to Rosario Islands with DKTourVIP including the boat ride to the islands, 5 islands, lunch, snorkeling, bioluminescence nighttime experience, and a bus ride back to my Airbnb.

We visited Big Islands, Medusa, Cholon, Agua Azul, and Baru.

I loved freediving off the coast of the Big Island!

Thank you to Alejandro for the incredible pictures!

Our lunch at Medusa island was delicious. We stopped by Agua Azul for a bit. Then, headed over to Cholon, the party island for about an hour. I got my hair braided there too. We then spent hours at Baru Island (my favorite of the five!). After sunset, we went off the coast of Baru for the Bioluminescence Night Time Plankton activity. I did an incredible night time bioluminescence in Isla Holbox in 2019 too!


6 San Felipe de Barajas Castle

San Felipe is a fortress in Cartagena, Colombia. The castle is located on the Hill of San Lazaro dominating approaches to the city by land or sea. It was built by the Spanish during the colonial era. The construction of the Castle started in 1536, and expanded in 1657.

After being in Cartagena five days, I switched to the Walled City Two Story Loft. After I checked in, I headed out for a walk in Walled City and to San Felipe de Barajas Castle for sunset. It is one of the best ways to experience sunset in Cartagena.


7 Photo Walk in Cartagena

A Photo Walk in colorful and colonial cities like Cartagena is one of the best ways to know the city. I discovered Cartagena Photo Walk and Coffee/Juice with Maralis and Maria Fernandez on Airbnb Experiences. With the photo examples, and rave reviews. I knew I found my photo walk.

I ended up doing my photoshoot on a Saturday morning with Maria Fernandez and one other guest, Ryan. We walked through the Walled City, Wall, Bridge, and Sophia Hotel Rooftop.


8 Naval Museum

The naval museum housed in the same building as San Pedro Cathedral is a great way to learn about Cartagena's naval history going back to pre-hispanic times.

Visiting the Naval Museum is fun for adults and children alike with the models and interactive exhibits upstairs with the naval submarines, helicopters, and boats make visiting the museum. The courtyard and outdoor space is beautiful, and great for creating content like a boss in Cartagena.

I visited on a Friday afternoon with less than 15 people in the museum and loved it. The visit took about 1-2 hours and cost about $4USD.

Naval Musuem

9 Manga Visit

Don't miss the contrast of Cartagena with the old and the new. Walk across the bridge to Manga and/or Bocagrande. While you will see the skyline from any rooftop, its great to explore up close, and personal.

I loved staying in Manga for my first five days as I got to see another side of Cartagena. On my first day, I walked along the shore on the way to the Walled City. This is the view of Bocagrande from Manga.


10 Foodie Favorites in Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia is known for its culture, country and yes comida!

Here are some of my foodie favorites in Cartagena.

  • Corozo Jugo @Linda Maria in Getsemani

  • Veggie Wraps @Beiyu Slow Food

  • Expresso and Coconut Frappe @Cafe Mural

  • Bowl, Veggie Wraps, and Falafel @Cafe de La Manana

  • Coconut Balls @Clock Tower's Sweet Street

Top Row: Bowl @Cafe de la Manana, Lemonade with Coconut + Ceviche @Movich

Bottom Row: Veggie Sandwich @Cafe de la Manana, Veggie Wraps @Beiyu, Fish @Medusa Island

Top 10 Things to Do: Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena abounds with a colors, culture, and colonial architecture at every turn.

Whether you want to experience walking Walled City, stroll Getsemani neighborhood, visit Rosario Islands for a day trip, find the most Instagrammable spots, learn about the history of Cartagena, or any of my other Top 10 Things to Do in Cartagena, you will love it.

What activities interests you to do for Top 10 Cartagena, Colombia Things to Do.

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